School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Small Country, Big Impact - Meet Sara Greco

Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for International & Defence Policy   

by Phil Gaudreau, February 2021

Sara Greco

Small- and middle-sized countries rely on international institutions, like the United Nations, to increase their influence on the global stage.

Sara Greco PhD’19, completed her research on power transitions between countries and suggested alternative ways states drive systemic change.

The absence of war in the last two power transitions - between Britain and the US at the turn of the century, and between the Soviet Union and the US before the end of the millennium – prompted her research question: without war, how do states drive systemic change? Using the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a case study, Greco tested a theory she created called normative balancing. Greco found patterns of alignment within the United Nations Security Council to be reliable predictors of systemic change.

Normative balancing is when states align with a competitor vis-à-vis its norms, and alignment happens when a state voluntarily agrees with the norms of another state or complies with those norms. What this means is that ideas and persuasion matter when it comes to systemic change, not just material assets and brute force. This highlights the agency of small and mid-sized states when it comes to their ability to impact the hierarchy of the system.

Greco first became interested in international relations when she completed her undergraduate degree in political science at Western University.

Upon completion of her degree, Greco wanted to continue researching and writing on international relations and she decided to complete her masters. During her graduate studies, she discovered her passion for academia and researched PhD options. Once her masters was finished, Greco enrolled in the PhD in Political Studies at Queen’s working with Dr. Stéfanie von Hlatky.

Currently, she is a research associate at the Royal Military College, working as the project coordinator. Sara is also a post-doctoral research associate with the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen’s University, where she will be serving as an adjunct professor in the department of political studies in January 2021.

She will be teaching two fourth-year seminars: one on international relations theory and the other on international regimes.

“One of the first lessons I learned as a PhD student at Queen’s was the importance of paying it forward. Teaching is a way for me to express my gratitude to the Department, and contribute to the development and promotion of the next generation of students.” says Greco.

To learn more about graduate studies options with the Department of Political Studies, please visit their website.